The biggest takeaway from the LIV golfers’ suit against the PGA Tour

Once the PGA Tour suspended players who competed in the LIV Golf Invitational Series, it seemed inevitable that the ring battle of the world’s best players would end in the courtroom.

On Wednesday, Phil Mickelson, Bryson DeChambeau and nine other LIV Golf players filed an antitrust lawsuit in federal court. Three players, Matt Jones, Hudson Swafford and Taylor Gooch, are seeking a temporary restraining order allowing them to compete in the FedEx Cup playoffs.

After a summer of drama, splits, and amazing developments, The Gloves are officially out.

“I don’t like that they’re suing the PGA Tour because they’re suing players too,” PGA Tour player Billy Hurschel told ESPN on Wednesday. “We are the PGA Tour. I am the PGA Tour. Collin Morikawa is the PGA Tour. Justin Thomas is the PGA Tour. The 200+ members are the PGA Tour.”

Here is some of the biggest revelations from the lawsuit filed in federal court in the Northern District of California:

Is the PGA Tour colluding with the majors?

Lawyers representing suspended players believe the PGA Tour ban on players joining LIV Golf is “significantly strengthened if the ban includes not only PGA Tour events, but also the four disciplines,” which are regulated by separate governing bodies.

“The Tour recognizes that if it can prevent LIV Golf players from accessing these events – or even create credible enough doubts about whether participation in LIV Golf would terminate a player’s chances of playing in those events – LIV Golf will find it extremely difficult to sign. and maintaining a critical mass of players to participate in a competitive round at the elite level.”

Players’ attorneys allege that the PGA Tour “pressure and encourage major organizations to join the group’s boycott and to prevent LIV Golf from entering the global golf ecosystem.”

LIV players who were eligible to compete in the Majors were allowed to play this year.

Some of the leaders of the four governing bodies didn’t utter their words about LIV Golf. PGA CEO Seth Waugh said as early as May 2021 that his organization was “fully supportive of the PGA Tour and the European Tour in relation to the current professional game ecosystem.”

USGA CEO Mike Wan added at the US Open in June: “Can you imagine a day when it would be difficult for some people to do different things to participate in the US Open? I could. Would that be true? I don’t know, but I could.” Definitely anticipate that day.”

At last month’s Open in St Andrews, R&A CEO Martin Slippers told reporters that LIV Golf was “harming the concept of the sport”.

Fred Ridley, president of Augusta National Golf Club, which oversees the Masters, hasn’t taken such a hard line, at least not publicly. But the golfers’ lawyer LIV accused him of working behind the scenes on the PGA Tour in the lawsuit.

The complaint said Augusta National’s representatives “threatened to disqualify players from the Masters if they joined Live Golf.” It claimed that Ridley had “personally instructed” players at this year’s course not to defect to LIV Golf and that he had refused to sit down with LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman to discuss the business model for the new circuit.

Furthermore, the lawsuit alleges that Slumbers and Ridley called Cho Min Thant, CEO of the Asian Tour, “to threaten the consequences for the Asian Tour’s standing in the current ‘ecosystem’ if the Asian Tour continues to support the LIV Golf and LIV Golf Invitational series.” According to the complaint, the entry of the Medal of Merit award winner on the Asian Tour to The Open was snatched away by R&A.

Do LIV players stand a chance of winning on the court?

One of the challenges for LIV Golf players, according to Craig Sebald, partner and antitrust expert at law firm Vinson & Elkins, is proving injury. Many players who left the PGA Tour for LIV Golf received guaranteed signing bonuses between $100 million and $200 million.

“Usually, when you’re representing prosecutors, you’d say, ‘Oh my God, our prosecutors are really hurt,'” Sebald said. They were badly injured. “But the claim in the complaint is that in order for these players to cross over to be part of LIV, they had to overpay for them. They were surprised that they had to pay all these up front to get people. I think they say and that makes it difficult for them in the long run to They are able to survive, despite the fact that the Saudis are giving them millions of dollars.”

Sebald believes that it will be difficult for the three LIV players seeking temporary restraining orders to participate in the FedEx Cup playoffs to obtain them. Sebald notes that the northern region of California is a popular choice of location for antitrust plaintiffs. It’s the same court that blew up the NCAA amateur model in the Ed O’Bannon case.

“I think their chances of doing that are very slim [issue a restraining order]”This is basically a financial issue,” Sebald said. “I think the court would say, ‘Look, we can settle the money later.'” This is a big issue. A judge may not want to just jump in without knowing a lot of facts before doing something unusual.”

Horschel, a member of the PGA Tour Players Advisory Committee, asked how LIV Golf players could argue that they were injured after earning lucrative signing bonuses and competing for $25 million.

“Why should they be part of the PGA Tour?” Horschel said. “Why do they need a double dip? Why do they need to get their cake and eat it at the same time and kind of rub it in the faces of all the other PGA Tour players? It just doesn’t make sense to me.”

LIV Golf is close to partnering with the DP World Tour

One of the most interesting revelations was that representatives of the Saudi golf company met DP World Tour officials in Malta in July. During that meeting, according to the complaint, DP World Tour CEO Keith Bailey emphasized “the appeal and suitability of the new series, but said that the PGA Tour’s “mighty strength” was his main issue and “the need to avoid a collision course between the DP World Tour and the PGA Tour.”

“Under pressure from the ‘mighty power’ of the PGA Tour, the European Tour agreed to boycott and rejected the opportunity to partner with the newcomer, instead strengthening its strategic alliance with the PGA Tour,” the complaint says.

Lawyers alleged that the PGA Tour pressured DP World to amend its regulations to restrict its players from competing in LIV Golf tournaments. The DP World Tour has fined its players $125,000 and suspended them from events that shared their penalties with the PGA Tour, including the Scottish Open.

“The European Tour agreed to all PGA demands to implement the group boycott,” the complaint said.

Mickelson was suspended in March

Mickelson’s controversial comments by author Alan Shipnock about Saudis being a “scary mother” led him to spend four months away from golf. But part of his hiatus wasn’t of his choosing.

The lawsuit said Mickelson, the six-times main champion, was first suspended for two months by the PGA Tour on March 22 for “attempting to recruit players.” [LIV Golf]The Appeals Committee upheld Mickelson’s suspension. His request to reinstate his position was rejected after about two months because he played in the first LIV Golf event in London.

“The tour’s unlawful conduct cost Mickelson’s sponsorship and sponsorship deals,” the lawsuit said. “Notably, the tour is the only golf tournament regularly shown on television in the United States, and it earns more in sponsorship, advertising, and broadcast revenue than any other golf tour.”

DeChambeau has signed with LIV Golf twice

DeChambeau, winner of the 2020 US Open and one of the game’s most polarizing players, was linked with LIV Golf long before he was actually signed on June 10.

According to the lawsuit, Dechambeau signed with the Saudi-backed department twice. Due to “threats of punishment and career destruction” on the PGA Tour, LIV Golf has not been able to fill its league plans this season.

“Some players (including plaintiff Dechambeau) who had previously signed contracts with LIV Golf were forced to publicly declare their loyalty to the Tour,” the lawsuit said. “Other players who have previously agreed in principle to all terms with LIV Golf have informed LIV Golf that they cannot sign now, and have instead declared their allegiance to the Tour. Players who were excited to join LIV Golf have reported that they unfortunately cannot join in light of these circumstances.” threats.”

What about the Ryder Cup?

The lawsuit alleges that at the 2021 Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin, PGA representatives “threatened golfers and their representatives privately that they would be barred from participating in a future Ryder Cup and PGA Championship if they joined LIV Golf.”

Wu earlier told reporters that US players have to be members of his organization, through the PGA Tour, to compete in the Ryder Cup, which the US PGA is co-organizing with the DP World Tour.

Waugh repeated the organization’s position at the PGA Championship in Southern Hills in May.

Zack Johnson, captain of the U.S. team at the 2023 Ryder Cup in Rome, Italy, was asked in June if LIV players were eligible for captain selection.

“The way we’ve been US PGA members is through the PGA Tour,” Johnson said. “I’ll let you connect the dots from there.”

In the complaint, lawyers representing the LIV players asked the judge “[p]Prevent the PGA Tour from conspiring or unlawfully agreeing to the European Tour to ban or threaten to prevent players from participating in European Tour events or participating in the Ryder Cup for speaking to, contracting with, playing in or affiliated with LIV Golf. “

PGA Tour LIV sellers and sponsors don’t like Golf

In what may be the least surprising claim in the complaint, it is alleged that several longtime PGA Tour sellers and sponsors, including apparel, golf equipment, technology companies and golf courses, have allegedly chosen not to engage with LIV Golf due to their connection to the PGA Tour.

“LIV Golf attempted to enter into a business relationship with Dick’s Sporting Goods,” the lawsuit said. In response, Dick’s Sporting Goods LIV Golf has reported that[g]Because of our relationship with our PGA Tour and Championship [PGA Tour Champions tournament]And the [Dick’s Sporting Goods representatives] Agree that it is better to pass now. ”

The complaint said Ticketmaster was willing to work with LIV Golf, but allegedly withdrew from the deal “in response to pressure from the PGA Tour.”

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